Invasion of Privacy: What Are the Limits?

Can a person’s privacy ever be invaded legitimately?

Courts in the US have generally ruled that privacy can be invaded IF:

  • the disclosure of private facts is “newsworthy,” meaning the public has a legitimate interest in this matter.
  • a celebrity or public person has voluntarily revealed private information about themselves, but then objects when a news organization reveals more information that might contradict their self-serving depictions.
  • For example, suppose a presidential candidate or religious leader portrays himself as a great family man, preening for photos, preaches frequently about the importance of family and expresses harsh judgments about the lifestyles of others who do not meet his high standards. But then a publication reveals how he has betrayed his family and the sorry state of his relationships. Is this not a matter of legitimate public interest?
  • See “Making your personal affairs a matter of public concern.”
  • However, a Florida jury in 2016 ruled that the online publication Gawker egregiously violated the privacy of the wrestler/celebrity Hulk Hogan, awarding him $115 million in damages: $55 million for economic harm and $60 million for emotional distress. Additional money might be awarded for punitive damages against the publication.
  • Debate at New York Times site.

Resources on Entrepreneurial Journalism and Communication

The old business models for journalism, and communication, both print and broadcast, are changing dramatically or perhaps even dying. Educators in communication have to recognize that if they don’t innovate, they may be training students for jobs that will not exist in their students’ professional lives.

That’s why I’m attending the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism’s 2016 Summit on Entrepreneurial Journalism, primarily for educators.

I discovered the online world in the early 1990s and immediately recognized the potential revolutionary impact on societies. Between 1994 and 2009, I sought to be an online entrepreneur, creating a number of email newsletters, websites, online communities and social media groups. I focused on content for families, neighborhoods, candidates, causes and advocacy groups, health care interest groups, travel and history. Some of these projects were artistically successful; several helped organizations meet their goals; some were politically successful, some contributed to positive social change; but none were financially sustainable as independent entities for the long term as I originally dreamed that they would be.

In 2009, I discovered a new calling as an educator, but I still have a strong interest in entrepreneurial journalism, or an interdisciplinary approach to building sustainable online businesses. It would be great to develop this knowledge into a course, because I have a number of students who dream of starting their own businesses. Some of them are actually successfully marketing their start-ups over Instagram. One of the ideas I heard today that could be implemented immediately is to start a club of students interested in entrepreneurship.

I’m gaining a lot of resources and contacts, listed below. I will update this list and develop it further.

The conversation continues in the Entrepreneurial Journalism Facebook Group;;;; and an occasional email newsletter: email to subscribe.

Entrepreneur Facebook Group.

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ZU Student Publication Showcases Best Student Storytelling

Zajel, the Zayed University student publication, won a 2015 Mark of Excellence Award for “Best Online-Only Student Publication” from the Society of Professional Journalists. Fatima Karmostaji provided the details on the award.

In 2016, Zajel started publishing regular video news stories. And for the first time, Zajel published during summer school, despite the fact that it was Ramadan and there was only a skeleton staff.

Here are some of the 2016 Zajel posts from Abu Dhabi students:


Introducing Video News from ZU: Festival Time

When Mohammed Ali Visited the UAE By Sozan Al Qarzi

A Pearl Diver, Back from the Dead By Amna Al Zaabi

Hag Al Laila, Children’s Wonderland By Hajar Al Teneiji

ZU Students Share Stories, Encourage Reading at Abu Dhabi Book Fair By Noura Darwish

2016 ZU Film Festival Coverage

Best New Middle East Movies Spotlighted By Reem Al Hammadi and Staff Reports;

‘The Other Dimension’ by Emirati Student Tells Stories Worth Remembering By Reem Alhammadi;

‘Flipped,’ Short Film By Emirati, Teaches Dangers of Speed, By Hajar Al Hosani

First Person

Horse-riding Helps Student Learn About Her Own Character, By Hessa Al Haram

My Contagious Love for  Classical Music, by Hajer Al Teneiji

Lenses (Photography)

I Spent Summer 2015 on an Amazing European Adventure, By Hooreya Al Muflahi

Book Reviews

‘I Am Malala’, By Amal Al Zaabi

Restaurant Reviews

‘The Third Place’ Cafe Offers Art, Books and Good Coffee, By Dana Al Sarkal

‘Broadway’ Comes to Abu Dhabi, By Mashael Adel

Five Guys Burger Joint Opens at Marina Mall Abu Dhabi, by Reem Alhammadi

Ethical Values in News Gathering and Non-Fiction Storytelling

  • Accuracy
  • Balance
  • Completeness
  • Detachment
  • Ethics
  • Fairness

Explain what each of these values are and why each is important.

Note that “lack of bias” is not one of the core ethical principles. Why not?

What are the challenges, pressures and limitations on achieving these values in the daily, weekly, monthly production of stories for public consumption?

Reflect on the following aphorisms, or words of wisdom:

“A reporter or storyteller is only as good as his or her sources.”

“Journalism is the first draft of history.” Give one example of how journalists got an historical event WRONG and one example of how journalists got an historical event right.

“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”

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Five Effective Ways to Tell A Story

ZU Student Moza Al Hamrani has compiled resources on effective ways to tell stories. Students should read and follow the links.

Five effective ways to tell a story